Most popular period tracking apps share data with third parties, according to the report by the UK-based Organization for the Review of Health and Care Applications (ORCHA).
The report looked at 25 popular tracking apps made by 24 different developers. It found that 84% of them shared data outside the developer’s system with a third party and only one app stored data solely on the device.
Of the apps that shared information, 68% said they did so for marketing purposes, while 64% cited legal obligations, 40% reported sharing data for research, and another 40% said they used data to improve their services .
The ORCHA report also noted that many of the data-sharing apps embedded user consent information within the terms and conditions. Of the 21 apps that shared data with third parties, nine included consent in the terms and conditions, while another eleven put some user control within the app and some in the terms and conditions.
Only one app listed user consent to share their data within the app itself, which ORCHA argues is a valuable practice, because most people won’t read the full terms and conditions.
“It would be good practice for an app to have a ‘consent’ page that is easily accessible from the main menu. Each individual permission could be checked or unchecked at any time. So a user who wants to ensure privacy could change your mind easily. and uncheck permission to share with third parties,” Tim Andrews, ORCHA’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.
BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT
Following the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade In late June, period-tracking apps became a concern for privacy advocates. Some apps like Clue and Radiance released statements about its privacy policies, while Flo introduced an “anonymous mode” that allows users to access the app without personal email, name, and technical identifiers.
But some privacy experts argue that period-tracking apps are just one piece of the privacy puzzle, as there are other digital evidence that could connect users with abortions, such as text messages or location data.
“Period-tracking apps have come into the spotlight for alarming reasons, but they are probably the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data security,” Fatima Ahmed, ORCHA’s clinical director for maternity and women’s health. “And even app developers who promise to stop sharing names and addresses, for example, should be aware that people can be identified by an IP address.”